TRAINING CAMP PREVIEW: DEFENSIVE LINE
In camp (10): DE/DT Jurrell Casey, DL DaQuan Jones, DL Austin Johnson, DE Matt Dickerson, DE Brent Urban, DL Jeffery Simmons, DL Frank Herron, NT Braxton Hoyett, DE Amani Bledsoe, DT Isaiah Mack.
Offseason developments: After suffering a season-ending knee injury last December, Casey spent the first part of the offseason rehabbing the knee. He was limited in the team’s offseason work, spending some time in the sand pit while working his way back. The Titans used the 19th overall pick of the NFL Draft to select Mississippi State defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons, who is recovering from an ACL injury. Simmons has been rehabbing the knee over the last few months, and recently shared a picture of himself jogging on social media. The Titans signed former Ravens defensive lineman Brent Urban along with veteran Frank Herron, formerly of the Patriots. The team also added a number of undrafted free agents, including former Chattanooga standout Isaiah Mack. The Titans said goodbye to Bennie Logan and Darius Kilgo, who is now with the Lions.
In the spotlight: Casey. Entering his ninth NFL season, Casey played at a high level again in 2018, earning a Pro Bowl nod for the fourth straight year. A late-season injury kept Casey from making the appearance this past year. Casey said earlier this offseason he’s more motivated than ever heading into 2019 after being forced to miss the team’s critical December game against the Colts. Casey should be a wrecking ball once again on the defensive line, and some new faces around him should make him better. Casey will be worth watching in camp when he returns in full force - he was placed on the team's Physically Unable to Perform list on Monday.
Battle to watch: Austin Johnson vs. a batch of others. In a perfect world, Simmons would be healthy and ready to go at the start of camp. But Simmons wouldn’t be a Titan if his health would've been perfect during the draft, so patience will be needed. In the meantime, there’s a spot to be had in the middle. The Titans had five defensive linemen on the roster at the end of the 2018 season, so that’s the number I’m projecting for the start of 2019. Casey, Urban, and Jones make three, and I like Matt Dickerson as No.4 – he’s put on even more size (roughly 10 pounds) this offseason, and is developing nicely. What Johnson needs to do is prove he’s a better option than newcomers like Herron, and the youngsters. Bledsoe is athletic, and I’m looking forward to seeing Mack when the pads come on.
Keep an eye on: Urban. The Titans acquired Urban in April, and based on his offseason work, he already looks like a good fit in the defense. His familiarity with defensive coordinator Dean Pees, his DC in Baltimore, has helped with the transition. Urban started all 16 games in Baltimore last season, and he has 3.5 sacks in 41 career games. With the Titans, he’ll provide a sturdy defender at defensive end. He’ll be easy to spot for fans at camp: Urban is 6-foot-7, and he weighs 300 pounds.
Next up: Linebackers.
With training camp set to begin this week, Titans Online looks back at the 2019 offseason. (Photos: Donald Page, AP)